Charles Lamana, corporate vice president of business applications and platforms at Microsoft, speaks at a press conference in San Francisco on February 28, 2024.

Jordan Novett | CNBC

Microsoft on Thursday announced that it will launch a Copilot chatbot that can perform key tasks for people working in finance. The software company will first offer the tool in public preview. Pricing details to follow.

Many business software vendors, including HubSpot and Salesforce, are working to enrich existing products with generative artificial intelligence, hoping to make customers more efficient. The craze started after startup OpenAI in 2022 released the ChatGPT chatbot, which can spit out natural-sounding text or other content with a few words of human input.

A typical company consists of various groups in which employees perform specialized work. “We want every one of the departments to be enabled and enriched with Copilot,” Charles Lamana, Microsoft’s corporate vice president, said in an interview with CNBC in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Microsoft already has Copilot for general-purpose industrial use in Office applications and has released Copilots designed for sales and customer service employees.

The Copilot logo displayed on a laptop screen and the Microsoft logo displayed on a phone screen are seen in this illustrative photo taken in Krakow, Poland on October 30, 2023.

Jakub Pozhicki | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Finance Copilot will initially perform variance analysis, reconcile data in Excel and speed up the collection process in Outlook. The Software may use information stored in SAP and in Microsoft Dynamics 365. Additional features will come to Financial Copilot later this year, Lamana said.

Japanese advertising agency Dentsu will use Copilot for financial tasks, Lamana said.

Microsoft said its finance department provided input into the development of the new Copilot and that it has seen some early benefits from its use.

Comparing data pulled from different systems is “something every finance team on the planet does a lot,” said Corey Hrnchyrik, head of modern finance in Microsoft’s office of the chief financial officer. Several thousand people on a financial planning and analysis team spend an hour or two doing reconciliations each week, and with the new Copilot it takes more than 10 or 20 minutes a week, he said.

The idea is to help these employees spend fewer hours on tedious tasks and free up time for more engaging work that can contribute more to the company. But Microsoft’s finance employees aren’t required to use the new Copilot, Hrncirik said.

However, if many financial professionals in a company take advantage of these automations, the company may be able to close its books faster.

“That’s one of the big takeaways for CFOs,” Lamana said.

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